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When Kings Clash — A "Game of Thrones" Reading List

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Once the shock of last season's ending wore off, the clamor began for new episodes of Game of Thrones. Fans have been whetting their appetites for a year now, and hopefully last year's read-alike list helped take the edge off the anticipation for some of you. But now, war comes to Westeros, and with it a new suggested readings list for those who crave a little blood and grunge in their fantasy. Let the Clash of Kings begin!

Have you ever read a book that turned your genre expectations upside down, inside out, and spanked them like misbehaving brats to boot? Even in today's fantasy literature environment, which is filled with authors like George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, beginning with The Blade Itself, stands out like a festering boil of rotten politics, conniving heroes, and honest torturers. From wastrel army officer Jezal dan Luthar and ex-wastrel officer turned maimed torturer Sand dan Glokta to a barbarian with a supremely blood reputation, the book plumbs human depravity with a certain unsettling glee while still making its protagonists sympathetic. This book hits like a dagger to the gut — or one of Glokta's cleavers — and keeps cutting through the bone.

The 600-year-old IMS Chathrand has disappeared on its mission to bring peace between two warring empires with an arranged marriage. On board the gigantic, ancient ship is a captain who may or may not be insane, sentient rats waging a battle against him, and a wizard from another world who speaks through a portal to the bride-to-be. Also on board is Pazel Pathkendle, son of a disgraced hero, master of languages, and sufferer of strange seizures due to his linguistic powers. The IMS Chathrand also boasts several stowaway Ixchel, miniature warriors who threaten Pazel with his life if he reveals their presence on board. Pazel must not only contend with seizures and death threats, he also finds himself unraveling the mystery of the Red Wolf and the secrets of a diplomatic mission that bodes far more deadly consequences than peace. Robert V.S. Redick provides a satisfyingly grim tale of adventure on the high seas in The Red Wolf Conspiracy.

Raif Sevrance is only a teenager when he and his brother return from hunting to find his father, his clan chief, and several of his friends murdered in cold blood, seemingly at the hands of rival Clan Bludd. Raif suspects there is more to events than a simple quarrel between his clan, Blackhail, and Bludd, but finds himself ostracized the more he pushes to learn the truth. Ash March is a foundling living in the border city of Spire Vanis, subject to the whims of an adoptive father all too interested in her first period. Effie Sevrance is the lonely sister of Raif, possessed of strange premonitions and an affinity for the vicious hounds maintained by Clan Blackhail. Vaylo Bludd is the daring chief that ousts the mightiest of clans from its roundhouse but soon finds the price to be more than he's willing to pay. In the midst of the conflicts they live through, darker powers stir beyond the Blind, a barrier holding back creatures more terrible than death itself. In J.V. Jones' gritty and chilling fantasy, Raif and Ash must journey to the Cavern of Black Ice to prevent these creatures from escaping and wreaking havoc on their world.

You will despise Rodrigo of Caledon. This is not an opinion. You will despise and loathe him as the utterly spoiled brat he is. When his mother, Caledon's queen, passes, Rodrigo is left to fend for himself in the ensuing games of deadly politics. Rodrigo's struggle for succession serves as his trial by fire, burning the callow, youthful cruelty from him. His coming of age is complicated by the legacy of his mother: the Still, an ancient and mysterious power wielded only by members of Caledon's royal house only if they remain virginal. In The Still by David Feintuch, Rodrigo — frustrated by his lack of release while his friends and fellow travelers can indulge their desires — takes his first tentative steps to becoming a man.

 

Now sit back, enjoy some popcorn with the show, and plunge into these deep, satisfying, and oftentimes brutal fantasies. They are more than meaty enough to fulfill the cravings of the most demanding readers.

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